Groupama’s Laurent Matras says agile and proactive brokers will stay ahead of the pack.

Times must be pretty tough for brokers. Income and profitability are being squeezed by a poor rating environment, while competition remains fierce as clients feeling the effects of the downturn seek greater value for their insurance spend, or go out of business.

Add meltdown in the financial markets to competition from comparison sites, direct and internet players and you might expect to see some long faces among the broking community.

Yet as I have travelled the country meeting our business partners, I have been struck by their upbeat mood. This got me thinking about what sets the winners apart from those who are really struggling. First, the more successful brokers have developed a broad offering that leaves them less exposed to volatile trading conditions. Of course, they have specialisms and schemes that serve them well, but they have developed a variety of options and opportunities that supports them when the cash cows need a bit of a breather.

They have also tried to cover the bases in terms of distribution methods. They trade on the internet, but they also recognise the value of advice and local service. Above all, they understand that the customer is always right.

This brings me to another key differentiator – agility. The brokers who lead can move quickly and respond to change. Their decision-making is swift, with implementation to match, ensuring they seize opportunities and maximise potential. A structure that is both flat and empowered is also a vital component to enable these firms to outwit the competition. The frontrunners in the broking community have a grip on what technology can do and they make it work. They also really know their customers.

As a committed supporter of the intermediary sector, it is hugely encouraging that they continue to thrive in such challenging conditions. It remains a good time for good brokers.

Laurent Matras is managing director of Groupama Insurances.